The other day I noticed something interesting. I was watching TV with my 7yr old cousin. Now this boy is the most curious and inquisitive little boy that I know. He constantly asks question whenever in doubt and he won’t stop until he gets a satisfactory answer. We’ve had a serious discussion on the difference between sinema and kipindi. He recently made me buy a map of the world so that I can explain to him why he can’t drive to the States! He’s a very interesting boy and it’s always rewarding engaging him as he constantly keeps us on our toes.
So we were watching some show, I forget which and during one of the commercial breaks they brought one of the Trust Condom ads. At first, it didn’t occur to me, but after a while I realized he didn’t ask me what that was. I looked at him and noticed that he wasn’t even looking at the TV. He was playing with a toy car and just waiting for the show to resume. ‘My first thought was does he knows what a condom is?’ Followed by but how? I had a moment of panic in my mind trying to understand what this means. I was left with the options of either asking him if he knew what that ad was or just ignore it. I wasn’t brave enough to start such a discussion with a 7yr old! I concluded (I hope) that the advert didn’t warrant his curious mind.
This got me thinking about the kind of exposure kids get in regards to all matters sexual. I remember my first encounter with a Condom. I was about 14 at that time. My cousins and I used to go to my mum’s office after school to wait for my dad to come pick us up. It was a boring place and we tried to find ways to amuse ourselves. One day we discovered a condom dispenser in the bathroom. I don’t know which one of us came up with the idea but it was decided that we’ll get one and try to see how it looked like. The extraction was planned with military precision. The look out was appointed, the person to distract my mum and the bravest of us all, my cousin to get the “specimen.” I could hardly concentrate in school the next day from the excitement. We managed to get it without a glitch and we couldn’t sit still waiting to get home. We rushed to our room locked the door and opened up the wrapper. We finally knew what a condom looked like.
But the most memorable thing about that day was not really about the condom though. Halfway through our exploration, my mum called us. From her tone of voice we knew she was mad about something. At first we thought we had been discovered so we quickly took the condom and wrapper and hid it under the bed. Of course my mum got more annoyed cause we delayed so she started ranting. The staircase in our house is curved. So we formed a line there while we listened to her rant. One of my cousins was hidden from my mums view. So while my mum was on her tirade and the rest of us were trying to look suitably somber, she was making faces at us and gesturing towards the bedroom implying the condom. Those were the longest 15 minutes of our lives as we listened to her. We were trying hard not to laugh, which resulted in some comical expressions, which made the whole thing even funnier. My mum on the other hand thought we weren’t taking her seriously and she got even angrier. We escaped a whopping by a whisker. By the time we were back in the room we were uncontrollable heaps of laughter! To this day we always laugh when we remember that day.
The point of that tale is to show just how naive we were back then. At 14 we had no idea what a condom was, well maybe we had a rough idea but not the nitty gritty details. We were more excited with the adventure of sneaking one into the house than its use. But kids these days are losing their virginity at 12. A few weeks back there was a child on TV who had given birth while doing her KCPE at 13 yrs old. A child is now a mother. I can’t imagine how her life is going to be from now on.
So I’m left to wonder, when is the right time to talk to our kids about sex? When do we need to tell them about the dangers and what they need to do to protect themselves? With AIDS being rampant amongst the youth there’s an even bigger danger than pregnancy for these kids. Can you imagine a 14yr old HIV positive kid?
So is it better to talk to your kids about this, or are we going to cower in embarrassment behind propriety and culture and let them fumble through experimentation and misinformation. I’m not saying we bombard them with too much information, but more like create an environment where our kids are better informed and are in a better position to make the right choices. The media is telling them every day that they need to have sex to be cool. It was alarming for me to think that my 7yr old cousin was that exposed. But it’s better if he has the right information than having to learn the hard way.